PS 95-138
A human ecology approach to water scarcity in the context of the MENA countries

Friday, August 14, 2015
Exhibit Hall, Baltimore Convention Center
Ezatollah Karami, Agricultural Extension, Shiraz University, Shiraz, Iran

This paper investigates the implication of human ecology on understanding water scarcity challenges in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Annual water availability of less than 1,700 m3 per capita is believe to pose a significant constraint on socio-economic development. The MENA countries have an average annual renewable water resources of 1,274 m3 per capita, making the region the most water stressed in the world. The per capita fresh water resources available are projected to decline to around 1,000 cubic meters by 2025. This paper used the POET model, a human ecology approach, to develop a framework to analyze the factors that contributing to water scarcity in the MENA region.


The developed theoretical framework, which identifies interdependencies among population (P), social organization structure (O),  environment (E) and technology (T)  maintain that all four are key causes of water scarcity problems, proved to be useful tool for analysis of water scarcity. The population component represented the population size, growth rate, migration and number of refugees.   Between 1970 and 2001, population growth caused the available renewable fresh water resources per person in MENA to drop by more than half. Social organizations are means by which communities attempt to eliminate or moderate the negative impacts of the other components on water scarcity. Lack of appropriate social organization was the major obstacle to water scarcity mitigation. Preoccupation with short term survival from extremism and war, leaves little room for developing pro-environmental social organization structure. Some analysis shows that 78 % of the water shortage can be attributed to changes in socioeconomic factors. Climate change as the most important component of environment is already affecting the MENA region. It will causes extreme heat to spread across more of the land for longer periods of time, making some regions unlivable. Developments in technology have both alleviated and created water scarcity. Currently in the MENA countries there is little investment in alleviative technologies. Furthermore the potential for finding innovative technology which can be effective in mitigating water scarcity seems to be limited. Based on the developed framework it can be concluded that components of POET model are the major explanatory factors for water scarcity in the MENA region. In turn unaddressed water scarcity will cause ecological disasters and loss of ecological services which within time limit of this century will lead to humanitarian disasters, poverty, food insecurity and exodus from this region.